SOLVING ANXIETY WITH DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR
E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge, TheDogPlace.org Exhibition Editor
Separation anxiety with destructive behavior is often seen in dogs due to a family death, moving, and other human events that cannot be explained to a dog
Dog suffer deeply from feelings of abandonment especially when dropped off on the side of the road by people he trusted. The dog sits patiently waiting for his family to come back. Finally hunger demands he seek help but often, he will continue to return to “his spot” in hopes they will return.
Is your dog literally climbing the walls? Whether adopted or home raised, the dog’s separation anxiety may be expressed by chewing on furniture, destroying rugs, defecating and urinating in the house, clawing curtains, digging under beds, terrorizing the cat, and other unwanted activities. One distressed dog shuffled his wire crate to a clothes closet and destroyed an expensive coat. A distressed dog thinks up activities on its own. Destructive behavior is disastrous not only to your budget, but to the household in general. Some will dump food bowls, others dig in water bowls. The answer is not to take the dog to a shelter as this will only intensify his separation phobia. Try “getting inside his head” and offering different solutions until you hit on one that works. “Dogs aren’t our whole life, but they do make our lives whole! Let’s enjoy their companionship as a positive experience.
Always be sure to put household cleaners and food out of reach. Pick up your clothes, shoes and boots so that you don’t inadvertently entice the dog to direct his destructive actions toward personal items. Most important, the dog must be confined to a specific area where he can do little or no damage. Leave large chew bones and toys in this area or in his crate. Turn on the TV or a radio for company. If there are windows and it looks stormy, cover the crate with a towel.
If attempts to comfort his anxiety attacks or stop destructive behavior don’t work, you need to call a professional trainer.
Giving up your dog is hard. What are the choices? Coming from a loving home environment, the shelter location may appear as chaos. The employees make every attempt to find a proper home, but there will be times the dog must “cope”. Some may be able to do so, others may not. Some become fear biters, others become so dependent they cannot be left alone. Dogs who cannot cope may develop adverse behavior problems which will have to be dealt with by the new owner. Although temperament tested before placement, the dog’s past history and treatment may manifest as fear, destructive or sullen behavior in a different situation. At times, melatonin assists in calming your dog, other times one must seek the advice of a veterinarian.
Large breeds must have a large area to run in, but they still must feel secure. Therefore, if you leave him in the basement, make a covered area as being cave animals; dogs consider this privacy and security. When you select your dog, its best to make sure you can physically handle the animal. Older women don’t need a Saint Bernard to lead on a daily walk. Be sure you can take care of proper grooming for your dog on a continuous basis. This is important for the dog’s general health, the cleanliness of your home, and its interaction with others. The bottom line is this dog should compliment YOUR lifestyle.
If your older dog suddenly changes his habits or behavior, see the vet. There may be a medical reason. Be patient with your dog and adjust routine so it fits with his new behavior patterns and needs.
The reason most people welcome a dog into their family is to make their life better. We go into pet-human relationships for the life of a dog. Adoptions may present unknown challenges that must be dealt with. If such is the case, do not hesitate to return your dog to the shelter, explain what happened so that the dog can be homed in a different location that will better suit its needs. We include dogs in our lives to bring joy to our family. If an adopted dog does NOT have a positive influence on your family unit and relationships, do not feel guilty about returning him. Many times another environment will trigger a totally different response from the dog and you both will be happier.
The point is this: The breed your dog looks like is NOT necessarily what lies between its ears. You have no way to peer into the history or past treatment of this animal, nor do you have any way to predict how your animal will react to different situations. The behavior may be entirely different than what you see, depending on the activity for which it was bred. Adopting a cross bred dog is like opening a “surprise package”. This is why pure bred dogs offer a better indication of size, temperament, care, and adaptability. Crossing two or more breeds can open a “Pandora’s box” of behavior and health issues. The results may be wonderful, OR they may be just the opposite.
Your local kennel club will have resources to help you understand separation anxiety and/or destructive behavior and reach solutions. Your local vet can make suggestions as well. And as always, material is available on the Internet. www.AKC.org is a good reference for learning the genetic make-up of your dog and understanding WHY DOES YOUR DOG DO THAT!